In 2005, my little Vermont town was stealthily invaded by industrial wind developers. I didn't know too much about industrial wind back then. In fact, had I known about the invasion, it would have been a complete non-issue for me anyway. My oldest son was an infant, my wife's Mom had been diagnosed with cancer, and I was working crazy hours at the inn. Even as a proactive citizen, I was too busy to investigate a matter that wasn't close to my radar.
Most other Vermonters were likely in a similar situation. That is, they were busy with their own lives, cared deeply about the environment, and were also trying to make a living. Few had time for the extreme vigilance needed to stave off every external threat.
But the savvy wind technocrats knew our collective hot buttons, knew our limited wherewithal to carefully choose important battles, and knew how to remain under our radar. With convincing smiles they carried flashy Powerpoints and peer reviewed articles to our local and state politicians. They promised MORE JOBS! CLEAN ENERGY! And LOWER PROPERTY TAXES!
To further inch their long-term agenda, the developers quietly procured necessary easements from targeted landowners. They aligned with local environmental non-profits, infiltrated college campuses, and appealed to regional construction companies. A goal was set to have 20 turbines installed along a 30 mile Vermont ridgeline that overlooks my little town.
Time passed. In 2008, I traveled to California to visit my family. I remember seeing a field of massive turbines in Palm Springs that seemed so unsightly. Many were broken with missing blades. There were blinking red lights on top and few spun despite the stiff breeze. But the jarring aesthetics were not what I remember most. I remember an instant chill. The turbines would never work long term. So massive, so many moving parts. So out-of-place in the once brilliantly painted desert backdrop. 'Wind may be natural,' I remember telling my brother, 'but few will appreciate that the turbine graveyard is already a large-scale environmental disaster.'
More time passed. While hundreds of communities throughout the world frantically tried to salvage what remained of their fractured and raped landscapes, a critical mass of slow-drip persuasion had tipped peer reviewed ecology throughout Vermont into an overt assault. By 2011, the constant flow of fist pumping encouragement from Vermont's most influential politicians such as Bernie Sanders and Peter Shumlin had empowered the wind developers to take their flashy Powerpoints on a road show. Then the well funded marketers took over and authoritatively promoted twisting, slashing terms for industrial wind throughout 200 miles of Vermont's precious and pristine ridgeline.
Most people in my little town felt the same chill that I had felt in California and had begun to realize their plight. The massive machines would soon tower over our homes, farms, schools, churches, landscapes and businesses. We quickly realized the urgent need to become David against an industrial Goliath - a merciless, unrelenting capitalistic giant that had spent years and billions of dollars in corporate welfare to manipulate our politicians, local colleges, select local businesses, and carefully chosen neighbors.
We had been too busy to see.
And here I turn the story to eagles. In the spring of 2014 I saw an eagle fly into the marsh in my little town. It was one of those spiritual experiences that you never forget. The majesty of the bird against an endless blue sky. Breathlessly I ran home to find my kids so they might see her. Eagles are rare in this part of Vermont. I told my kids that she seemed to be looking for something in the reedy field. Likely she was hunting for a blind mole who would be unaware of her presence until it was too late. I have yet to see her again. But some of my neighbors have spied her against the same endless blue sky.
As I wrote extensively about in Twists, Turns, and Yellow Brick Roads, in 2013, the Associated Press released a report which documented killing of eagles around industrial wind turbines. The article revealed that President Obama's administration played an instrumental role in trying to keep the iconic eagle killings a secret. The report also indicated that behind closed doors, President Obama expressed reluctance to prosecute such cases in fear of the backlash towards progress of industrial wind projects.
Under immense pressure from vigilant action groups, in December 2013, the President addressed the issue by championing a new rule whereby corporate owners of turbines would be allowed to kill or injure eagles – birds that were removed from the endangered species list only in 2008 – without fear of prosecution for up to thirty years if they obtain a permit.
In what only can be described as an extreme twisted manipulation of patronizing arrogance, John Anderson, director of siting policy at the American Wind Energy Association, a major lobby for the industrial wind industry had this to say about Barak Obama's new rule: ‘This [rule] is not a program to kill eagles…this is a permit program about conservation.’
Make no mistake. Climate change is influenced by every living and breathing creature on this planet. But it is humanity’s ongoing and astounding arrogance that hastens its devastating impacts. Until we choose a determined path to address the insanity of consumerism as the holy grail of self-entitled progress, we are no better than moles in a reedy field who will remain blind to our fate until it is too late.